Ukuvuka: Fire Stop Campaign

Water and Sanitation

29 February 2000
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Meeting report

Ukuvuka: Operation Firestop Campaign

29 February 2000

Documents handed out:
Ukuvuka: Operation Firestop (See Appendix 1)


The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, Mr Kasrils, briefed the committee on the Ukuvuka Fire Stop Campaign.

He stated that in response to the recent fires around South Africa and in particular the Western Cape and Cape Peninsula Mountain Chain, a campaign had been launched to set up a system to manage and reduce the impact of fires in future.

The Campaign was a joint venture between the Ministers of Water Affairs & Forestry and Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The Campaign was a model that would be used all over South Africa.

Ukuvuka Fire Stop would look at ways of clearing the alien invasive vegetation, as well as getting communities involved in fire prevention and fire fighting activities. A large education drive was a key part of the Campaign.

The campaign had six main goals:

  • To control invasive plants.
  • To rehabilitate the mountain environments.
  • To create employment and poverty relief.
  • To promote social cohesion and community effort.
  • To protect vulnerable communities from fires.
  • To establish Fire Protection Associations.

The clearing of alien vegetation on public land would be funded by the Ukuvuka Campaign. Private land owners would be required to clear alien vegetation from their own lands. To assist in the process, the Campaign would aid co-operative private landowners by supplying the management, tools and support for the clearing, while the landowners would need to pay for the labour costs.

Private land owners who did not want to clear their land would be legally required to do so. If they did not, the campaign would clear the land, and the landowner would be required to cover the entire costs.

Appendix 1:


Operation Firestop

1. Introduction

The fires that have burnt over 9 000 hectares of land along the Table Mountain chain have caused considerable damage. However, given the fire potential posed by invading alien plants, had there been a slight shift in the direction of the wind, it would have turned the fire into an unprecedented catastrophe. It is no exaggeration to say that significant proportions of Hout Bay, Noordhoek, Ocean View, Kommetjie, Scarborough, Simon's Town, amongst other areas - as well as other vulnerable areas such as Kirstenbosch and Orange Kloof - could have been burned down, were we less fortunate with the wind direction.

As it is, we still face the threats of flooding, erosion, mud slides, scouring of rivers, siltation of dams and estuaries, and all the damage to property and commercial activities that these will bring. We shall need to be as fortunate with a lack of intensity of the first rains as we were with the direction and later abatement of the wind, if we are to avoid serious economic damage.

The fires have brought home to a wide variety of stakeholders, the need for us to develop an integrated management plan for the control of invading alien plants along the mountain chain, in addition to a variety of other measures (eg, erosion control, fire-proofing the properties along the mountain fringe). It presents us with an exceptional opportunity to develop a campaign in which the key stakeholders - the authorities, the commercial interests, the land owners and the general public - can come together to ensure that we are never again placed at such risk. It unites us all.

The key is the clearing of invading alien plants. The biomass ("weight") of the plants is ten-fold that of indigenous (fynbos) vegetation. These plants are "born to burn". Human actions have seen them displace our riverine and Afro-montane vegetation - our natural fire-breaks. They cause severely intense fires compared to indigenous vegetation. This intensity of fire leads to changes in the chemical properties of soil that hugely exacerbate flooding, slippage, mud-slides and the like.

A dense stand of invading alien plants on the Table Mountain chain will cause a loss of at least 1 500 cubic metres of water (1,5 million litres) per hectare per year. Given that there were up to 2 000 hectares of densely infested land that burned, this will mean that some 3 billion litres of water could be released under the worst of circumstances this year. There is no vegetation to bind the soil. The "sponge effect" of indigenous vegetation (whereby water is slowly released) is lost. The economic, ecological and human impacts of this could be devastating.

What is proposed, then, is a Campaign whereby the Table Mountain chain is cleared of invading alien plants. If we do this, and put in place other strategic measures (eg, fire-breaks, block-burning, fire-proofing of vulnerable properties, erosion control), we should be able to prevent such intense fires from ever occurring again, and greatly minimize the damage of the future fires that will occur in this fire-driven fynbos system.

A final introductory point is that this does not mean a "xenophobic" attacking of all that is alien. We shall approach this in a balanced way that deals with alien plants that cause problematic invasions. Thus, some stands of invasive alien plants will not be cleared. Certain "sacrificial" recreational sites will be maintained, where mildly invasive species (such as particular species of gums and pines) may be retained - eg, at Newlands Forest. Similarly, the fuel needs of the poor may require controlled woodlots of invasive species.

2. The Campaign

The Save the Mountain Campaign will have six primary goals"

a. To secure full control over invading alien plants along the Table Mountain chain and adjacent areas. "Full control" recognizes that we shall not be able to "eradicate" these plants, but rather that we contain their numbers in a way in which they become irrelevant in terms of ecological or economic impacts.

b. To assist in the rehabilitation of the Table Mountain chain in terms of the problems that have been exacerbated by the fires - erosion, slippage, mud-slides and the like. The original concept was that this would be limited to the rehabilitation within the Cape Peninsula National Park, and would not extend to the work that the local authorities may need to do within the urban area (eg, storm-water management). However, the extent to which the Campaign assists with aspects of additional rehabilitation will be governed by the recommendations of the South African National Parks, as implementing agents for the work, the local authorities, and the decision of the Campaign's Steering Committee, as well as the availability of funding.

  1. To create employment opportunities, training and poverty relief. This work will be undertaken in accordance with the norms of the Working for Water programme, and will seek to optimize opportunities for the unemployed, as well as marginalized groups such as women, the disabled, youth, victims of crime, and so on.
  2. To promote social cohesion through collaborative community efforts. This refers to the building of a sense of community and the breaking down of social barriers, as well as to ensuring that land-owners are accountable for what happens on their properties, and the risks that they impose on neighbours.
  3. To role-model approaches that protect the most vulnerable communities from fires. The Campaign will place a special emphasis on protecting the poor from fires through training, mobilization, provision of equipment and planning. This will include the clearing of invading alien plants that pose fire-hazards in such areas. It is envisaged that all poor communities along the mountain chain will be involved, along with two pilot samples from the Cape Flats.
  4. To be a role model for how similar campaigns can be run in other areas. This status is what must explain this exceptional response to the problems surrounding the fires on the Table Mountain chain.

2.1 What will be done?

All public and private land in the Cape Peninsula National Park and adjacent land (to be defined using GIS mapping) will be cleared of designated invading alien plants over a period of four years. All follow-up clearing thereafter will be full responsibility of land-owners. Work done on public land will be funded through the Campaign. Work done on private land must be funded by the land-owners, those at risk from fire and flooding, as well as the Campaign.

A business plan will be developed by the implementing agents that spells out an initial four-year strategy to clear invading alien plants across the entire Table Mountain chain. The business plan will also indicate how cleared areas will be kept free of invading alien plants in the long-term, through obligations placed on the land-owners.

Public Land: In terms of the public land, the campaign will assist the authorities - led by the Cape Peninsula National Park - to clear their land and undertake certain rehabilitation work. The responsibility for keeping the land clear of invading alien plants will then reside with the authorities, who will have to give a binding undertaking to ensure that this work is done.

Private Land: The following points will apply to the work done on private land:

  • Private land-owners will be required to clear their land of invading alien plants.
  • A list of species that have to be cleared will be published. Land-owners will be informed that the necessary legislation to enforce this will be gazetted as soon as possible. (This has in principle agreement from the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.)
  • Land-owners who are willing to co-operate with the campaign will receive assistance from the Campaign. It is proposed that the Campaign provides equipment, chemicals, possibly the removal of the bulk of the wood and training of labour teams. The land-owner will pay the cost of the labour
  • We shall also do the planning, mapping, co-ordination of labour, setting of contracts, social development and training of workers, in addition to the campaign management.
  • Land-owners who are not willing to co-operate with the Campaign will be told that we shall apply the proposed legislation, forcing them to clear their land, or clearing it at their expense. There will be no assistance from the Campaign to land-owners who refuse to co-operate with the Campaign.
  • Private land-owners will be obliged to keep their land free of invading alien plants.
  • We shall also give assistance to land-owners whose properties or interests are negatively impacted upon by invading alien plants on others' land, and who wish to see the work being done as soon as possible. This assistance will be given where such land-owners are willing to work with the implementing agents to deal with the problems, contributing time, expertise and funding as a community-based partnership. It is envisaged that here we shall extend into land in urban areas, where the invading alien plants are a fire risk and remain a source of seeds for re-infestation of cleared areas.

Rehabilitation work to mitigate the threat of flooding, slippage and mud-slides as a result of the fires, will begin immediately, and will be followed by longer-term stabilization work. This will be planned for in conjunction with local authorities. It is again envisaged that work on the public land will be done by the authorities and the Campaign, whereas the private land will be a partnership between the land-owners and the authorities/Campaign.

A major educational drive will be undertaken as part of the Campaign. This will have four principal components - a newspaper-led communication campaign driven by the Independent Newspapers (Cape), a radio/TV campaign, a schools' campaign run through the educational authorities, and a campaign with the major nurseries. Additional educational efforts (eg, aimed at pet-shops, foresters, developers, etc) will also be undertaken.

2.2 Who will drive the campaign?

Minister Ronnie Kasrils and Minister Valli Moosa will head the Government's involvement in the Campaign. It is envisaged that the Campaign's Steering Committee will be led by the Working for Water programme (representing National Government), in partnership with the Provincial authorities, the Cape Metropolitan Council, the South Peninsula Municipality, the City of Cape Town, the South African National Parks and our core sponsors. It may be possible to have NGO and CBO representation. The Cape Peninsula National Park will be the implementing agent, in partnership with the two municipalities.

Additional managerial capacity will be necessary to ensure that the campaign is run along professional lines. The Working for Water will employ a Campaign manager, and additional staff will be appointed as required. They will initially work out of the Working for Water offices, but will seek more appropriate office-space in time.

Marketing expertise will be given by the core sponsors, who will also endeavour to obtain free services from their customers and partners (eg, for the development of advertising material). The Independent Newspapers (Cape) will provide a journalist to co-ordinate and implement the Campaign's communication for the 90-day communication campaign. Telkom will be approached to run a telephone campaign urging all land-owners within a certain distance from the urban/mountain edge, to become partners in the Campaign. The SABC and other radio and television stations will be asked to contribute time and expertise to the Campaign. Such additional sponsorship will be agreed to by the Steering Committee, and will not be allowed to compromise the interests of the core sponsors.

2.3 Who are the core sponsors?

Considerable funding (R25 million) has already been used to clear invading alien plants over the past two years, from the Cape Peninsula National Park (through funding from the Global Environmental Facility) and the Working for Water programme. They will continue to be a core sponsor of the clearing of invading alien plants and associated work, and it is envisaged that this will provide up to an additional R50 million for this task over the next four years.

The core private-sector sponsorship will come from Santam Limited, who will contribute R20 million over a four-year period, and who in addition will make certain expertise and capacity available to assist in the management of the Campaign. An example here would be in the auditing of the work being done through the Campaign. It is envisaged that Santam's sponsorship will be placed in a trust fund that is managed by the Steering Committee, and through them by the Cape Peninsula National Park.

The Independent Newspapers group will be a core sponsor, providing R5,4 million in terms of advertising and educational space in the Cape Argus, the Saturday Argus, the Sunday Argus, the Cape Times and its thirteen community newspapers. They will also provide expertise in the form of a journalist dedicated to a 90-day communication campaign, and marketing and communication advice.

These core sponsors will decide upon the extent to which other sponsors will be sought. It is agreed that no other insurance company and no other publishing company will be brought in as sponsors. It is also agreed that there will be a limit to the number of associated sponsors, with a recommendation that there be approximately six additional private-sector associated sponsors (at up to R10 million each).

It has been suggested that the Campaign then build the funding through soliciting smaller donations from the general public, the private sector, international funding and other sources. It is also envisaged that the Campaign will raise funds through marketing efforts.
If done well, it may be possible to raise an additional amount of perhaps R10 million over the initial four-year period from these sources.

As an example of a marketing effort, we could get a labour-intensive production line for sticks with a flat, rectangular piece of thick rubber at the end, with which to beat fires. The sticks could be from felled invading alien plants, and the rubber could have the logos of the core sponsors. The fire-beating sticks could then be sold on a door-to-door basis by a team of previously unemployed people on a commission basis, but also raising funds for the Campaign. The same approach could be used to sell sandbags (for deflecting flood-water) to land-owners.

A major funding source for the work will be from the land-owners and interested and affected parties themselves. It is difficult to estimate how much of the costs will be borne by these people, until a detailed study is undertaken of the extent of infested private land that will need to be cleared. It is estimated that private the land-owners' contribution over the initial four-year period may be in the vicinity of R10 million.

A final consideration is that the Cape Metropolitan Council, the City of Cape Town, the South Peninsula Municipality, and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry could agree that water tariffs in the two local authorities be increased, so as to raise an additional funding over four years. (It is proposed that this apply only to those with water bills that exceed 30 kilolitres in any month.) This could raise R30 million over four years for the Campaign. This will need to be taken back to the various structures, but what we wish to seek now is a commitment to try to get this through the respective councils. It is important to state that this is entirely appropriate in meeting the catchment management requirements of the National Water Act.

If we achieve the above figures, the total funding available over the initial four-year period will be up to R180 million. It is clear that a business plan will need to be produced which outlines the real extent of the costs that will need to be covered in the Campaign. However, the rehabilitation work will always be there (think of Chapman's Peak), and there will be additional labour-intensive work opportunities, such as building and maintaining foot-paths, trails for horses/mountain bikes, roads and the like. There is also a need to invest in the management of the mountain's fauna, in the interests of all living adjacent to the mountain.

2.4 What is the Timing?

All of the core sponsors agree that the timing of the Campaign is critical. There is an exceptional level of awareness amongst those to be targeted by the Campaign, and general agreement that this needs to be exploited as soon as possible. An informal Steering Committee meeting will be held on Monday 31 January 2000 at 14h00 to 16h00 (Argus Building), followed by a meeting of political leadership of the various authorities (Minister Kasrils' office). The launch-date is set for 08h00 on Thursday 3 February 2000, at Tuynhuys. A business plan should be developed prior to the launch of the Campaign. The business plan will have to be based on existing information and agreed-upon partners, so as to present a coherent and practical plan of action for the Campaign.

2.5 Where will the work be done?

The work will be done according to a strategy that will be developed by the Cape Peninsula National Park (as the implementing agents) and the various local authorities. Public participation (in the form of groups of people from particular areas who want to work in partnership with the campaign) will further help to define where the work is done.

The role of the Steering Committee will be to provide policy co-ordination, programme terms-of-reference/key performance indicators, and auditing. Thereafter it will endeavour to make way for those driving the implementation to get on with the job, and to facilitate rapid procurement and decision-making.

As mentioned, the Working for Water programme will provide the initial accommodation of the campaign staff. It has been suggested that the Provincial Government be asked to make the Tokai Manor House available as a campaign headquarters.

3. Conclusion:

This concept plan has merely tried to outline some of the key components of the Campaign. The detail will be developed by the Steering Committee, in conjunction with the implementing agents, the Campaign manager, and her/his staff.

If the Campaign is well run, it can be said with reasonable confidence that we shall not face fires similar to those that caused relatively little damage under the circumstances last week. In addition, the Campaign will be a role-model for how we can approach similar problems elsewhere in the country. What is more, the Campaign can be driven with a definite objective of bringing people together behind a common cause, thereby building the sense of community, creating jobs, reducing risk, and demonstrating that such partnerships are in our enlightened self-interests.

The launch will need to be compelling. It will need to give the public the confidence that this is a Campaign that will work, and one in which they should invest. It should have the "bells and whistles" that excite involvement by the target audience. It must be followed up with specific actions which can be acted upon (eg, allowing members of the public to phone in to ask for assistance in clearing invading alien plants, or protecting their properties from damage by flooding or slippage). It must have a very strong emphasis on practicable implementation, and must ensure that there are immediate high-profile examples of what is to be done across the entire area. It must also tie in with the Hack Day that is to be held on 24 March 2000, rather than being a totally independent initiative. The launch plans will be made on Monday 31 January 2000.

On behalf of Ministers Kasrils and Moosa, may I offer my sincere thanks for your partnership in this unique campaign. It must work.

Dr Guy Preston

National Leader: Working for Water Programme

1 February 2000


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